Why you shouldn't buy Virgin Australia lounge membership right now

Even as domestic borders start to come down, now isn't the time to invest in Virgin Australia lounge membership: here's why.

By Chris C., November 11 2020
Why you shouldn't buy Virgin Australia lounge membership right now

As domestic travel begins to pick up, airport lounges are one of many things that flyers look forward to: but if you don’t already have an airport lounge membership, now isn’t the best time to buy one – at least, with Virgin Australia.

Since March, Virgin’s lounges have remained locked up, even as Qantas has re-opened many of its competing facilities, although that hasn't stopped Virgin Australia from continuing to sell new lounge memberships, which start at $750.

With that in mind, here are several reasons why that $750 is better-kept in your pocket, for now.

We don’t know when Virgin Australia lounges will re-open

With Virgin Australia choosing to keep its entire network of lounges closed – even where local regulations allow them to be open – travellers have been wondering for months when Virgin’s facilities will return.

The airline has not committed to a firm date for re-opening, advising only that lounges would continue to have their place at Virgin Australia, under the management of buyer Bain Capital.

“We are committed to providing leisure and corporate customers with best-in-class service, a comprehensive network of domestic and short-haul international destinations, lounges, and an award-winning loyalty program,” a Virgin Australia spokesperson recently told Executive Traveller.

With that uncertainty, would-be lounge members with upcoming travel plans still don’t know whether a lounge would be open to greet them upon departure.

As well, Virgin Australia lounge memberships commence on the day they’re purchased, meaning the clock starts ticking even before any new lounge member can start lounging:

We don’t know which Virgin Australia lounges will re-open

Aside from confirming that its domestic lounges in Alice Springs and Perth Terminal 2 will not return – and that the international lounge in Wellington would also be shuttered – Virgin Australia hasn’t outlined whether any of its other lounges will meet a similar fate.

For example, the airline’s flagship lounges in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane are likely to remain, but there’s less certainty surrounding lounges at smaller airports like Cairns, the Gold Coast, and Mackay.

Virgin Australia could certainly decide to keep all its remaining lounges – giving it a footprint of 10 domestic locations – or could equally choose to further whittle back its network.

The airline has given no hints in this regard, and nor has its website, which continues to list Alice Springs, Perth (Terminal 2) and Wellington as being part of the lounge network, despite confirmation from Virgin Australia back in August that these lounges would permanently close.

Without knowing for sure which airports will keep lounges, and any that may not, travellers would be unwise to invest in a new Virgin Australia lounge membership, without knowing whether the places they routinely visit – or even their home city – will still be on the lounge map.

Without lounge access, membership has no other benefits

Unlike the competing Qantas Club – which also bundles benefits such as priority check-in, extra checked baggage and access to on-departure upgrades – Virgin Australia’s lounge membership program is exactly that: a card that grants lounge access.

With all Virgin Australia lounges still closed, and with no alternative provided (such as a food and beverage voucher to spend in the terminal), a new membership serves no purpose.

Although Virgin Australia’s website still claims the card carries other benefits like “reciprocal access to selected Air New Zealand lounges”, Virgin Lounge members haven’t been welcome in those facilities since October 2018, when the two airlines ended their trans-Tasman alliance.

Executive Traveller made Virgin Australia aware of this issue several weeks ago, but at the time of publishing, this benefit continues to be promoted on the same pages where new Virgin Australia lounge memberships are sold:

There are alternatives to Virgin Australia Lounge membership

Virgin Australia Lounge is but one of many programs that Australian travellers can join to enjoy airport perks, but with a total first-year price tag of $750, it’s worth giving the alternatives a look, even if you regularly fly with Virgin Australia.

Aside from Qantas Club – which covers lounge access for Qantas and Jetstar flights – Priority Pass is a popular independent program, and provides benefits regardless of the airline the traveller has booked.

For example, Priority Pass members can normally access Regional Express’ Rex Lounges in Sydney, Melbourne. and Adelaide when flying with any airline, including with Virgin Australia.

Although Rex’s lounges, like Virgin Australia’s, are temporarily closed, Priority Pass members can also use their membership for ‘dining credit’ at participating airport cafes, bars and restaurants: and this does remain available.

In the domestic terminals of Sydney Airport (T2 & T3), Brisbane and Canberra, one Priority Pass ‘lounge entry’ unlocks $36 of food and beverage credit at participating locations – and with Priority Pass selling unlimited memberships, it’s easy for regular travellers to get their money’s worth.

Dining privileges don’t apply to Priority Pass members who get their card for free via American Express, but remain available to those who have their membership supplied via other credit cards, such as Westpac Altitude Black or St.George Amplify Signature.

The independent LoungeKey program operates in a similar way, as you’ll find bundled with the HSBC Platinum Credit Card.

Of course, Priority Pass and LoungeKey members can also access a broader network of lounges when travelling internationally from Australia, and when overseas, as travel restrictions permit.

Also read: Bain to take control of Virgin Australia in mid-November

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 233

Right now who on earth  would buy VA lounge membership when we don't even know what service on board the aeroplane will be like let alone in the lounges that are closed.

Such a large amount for such little information about the lounge if and when it ever does open again.

Very good advice NOT to buy membership at this time!!

Not sure anyone should even buy a Business Class ticket either until we see what eventuates.

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2476

It's certainly interesting: Qantas has paused new Qantas Club membership sales in reflection that only some of its lounges are open, yet Virgin Australia continues to sell new lounge memberships when none of its lounges are open (not to mention promoting lounges that the membership won't provide access to, even when they do return).

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Nov 2014

Total posts 360

Qantas is much better in this regard. Not only QC is useful with many lounges open, still open, they've even extended the validity acknowledging that our access is limited at the moment. 

I only fly VA J at the moment to burn up my remaining VA points, which would otherwise be useless.

18 Jan 2017

Total posts 51

Strange to make this news now when Virgin is likely to come out of administration next week alongside a string of annoucements in the coming weeks.

Would have been been more newsworthy 6 months ago.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

28 Feb 2019

Total posts 13

It’s newsworthy because they have continued to sell them for 6 months despite not offering the product to go with what they are selling. 

04 May 2015

Total posts 268

Virgin hadn't announced those lounge closures 6 months ago mate...

Etihad - Etihad Guest

28 Feb 2019

Total posts 13

All 13 of 

Virgin Australia's airport lounges shut on 23 March 2020 due to government COVID-19 restrictions, and remain closed to this day.  

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 685

Basically agree with the tenet of your article, Chris, apart from the following:

The airline has given no hints in this regard, and nor has its website, which continues to list Alice Springs, Perth (Terminal 2) and Wellington as being part of the lounge network, despite confirmation from Virgin Australia back in August that these lounges would permanently close.

To be completely fair, Bain & Co were not the legal (or presumed) owner in August, and any indication given by the Paul Scurrah-led management, would have to be considered 'suspect' as of now.

Given that Bain &Co haven't even confirmed what type, quality and level of service will be provided to the general public at large - let alone their Frequent Flyer Velocity base, I would suspect that final issues on Lounge policies are still yet to be finalised. 

It could well be that Bain & Co has revised the attitude to Lounge closings and that the website hasn't been updated on this point, because it doesn't need to be. 

Alternatively, with a lot of staff movements, reallocations and departures, who knows what staff capability they have right at this very minute? The fact that ET's report(s) to Virgin on these issues hasn't attracted a reply could be due to 1) lack of staff, 2) development or change of existing / future policy, a 3) formal 'reveal' date or indeed, 4) lack of interest.

Perhaps on Lounge issues and Virgin, we may just have to sit and wait to see what eventuates. Their November 'reveal' won't be too far off ~ and irrespective, we should expect a barrage of information from Virgin given that this will be a complete re-launch.

26 Jul 2015

Total posts 76

When the lounges open, is when I will return to flying Virgin.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 663

Assuming, perhaps incorrectly, that Virgin wishes to resume flights to CNS, not only must it re-open the lounge, but it needs to cut a deal with the airport to re-locate it closer to the main gates (like in BNE).  

As it currently stands, its almost as far as the walk in Melbourne from lounge in T3 across to Gate 11 & 13 used by Virgin in T4.  Yes, o-kay, I'll quietly admit to this readership that I do need the exercise, but Virgin doesn't KNOW THAT and, at CNS, the walk is just waaaaaaaay too far. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Sep 2013

Total posts 6

The description of the Gold Coast lounge as a “smaller” lounge, whilst being true in square meters, does see immense traffic. 

This would probably be the last push I need to go back to QF if the OOL lounge were to close. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 233

There is quite a lot of concern amongst Business Class travellers as to what the new VA will offer in the way of service both on the ground and in flight as is evidenced by posts in this web site.

I realise that Bain have only just been given the green light by the courts to implement the full take over, however-

Given this amount of concern and the damage it is causing surely if anyone in Bain/ VA Management had half a brain they would realise that this concern is very real and damaging and they should take some action to allay the concerns now.

All they have to do is to release snippets of information of what they propose that would give us Business Class travellers a bit of confidence and reason to remain loyal to VA and wait and see what transpires very soon. They don't really have to release the whole package at once.

Every  little bit of encouraging news would go a very long way in VA's customer relationship.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Jan 2013

Total posts 50

Here’s an idea, sell new $300 Virgin Lounge 12 month memberships, that don’t activate until you visit your first lounge visit, raise some funds and gauge public interest. 

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